Once again, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa made headlines when Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini joked this week that the French should give the masterpiece back to Italy.
But, the bigger story here starts with a question: did you ever wonder how da Vinci’s beloved artwork gained so much international acclaim in the first place?
The answer is somewhat astonishing, because it wasn’t the painting itself that generated the notoriety–it was the work of a crook.
The art heist that captivated the world
When handyman Vincenzo Peruggia swiped the Mona Lisa from the Louvre 108 years ago, he never could have imagined the theft would make her the most recognizable painting in the world, CNN reports.
For two years, da Vinci’s masterpiece was stashed away by Peruggia, and during that time, the painting was splashed across virtually every newspaper in print.
Finally, after hitting several dead ends, detectives caught up with the thief, retrieved the painting and placed her back on the wall at the historic French museum.
Mona Lisa was then catapulted into super stardom, as tourists from around the globe flocked to see her.
And still, that popularity endures today as millions visit the Louvre each year to see her.
Just imagine if Peruggia instead had stolen another painting off the wall that day, the headlines — and the diplomatic jokes — would likely be about something else entirely.
Watch the Vox video below for the full story: